Har Gobind Khorana is a biochemist who shared the 1968 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with Marshall W. Nirenberg and Robert W. Holley for research that helped to show how the nucleotides in nucleic acids, which carry the genetic code of the cell, control the cell’s synthesis of proteins.
Har Gobind Khorana was born on 9th of January,1922 of Hindu parents in Raipur, a little village in Punjab, which is now part of eastern Pakistan. He was the youngest of a family of one daughter and four sons. Although poor, his father was dedicated to educating his children and they were practically the only literate family in the village inhabited by about 100 people. Khorana began research on nucleic acids during a fellowship at the University of Cambridge in 1951 under Sir Alexander Todd.
Ratan Lal, one of his teachers, influenced him greatly during that period.
While his studying at the Punjab University in Lahore, Mahan Singh, a great teacher and accurate experimentalist, was his supervisor. In 1945 the award of a Government of India Fellowship made it possible for him to go to England to continue his studies. Khorana spent a postdoctoral year in Zurich with Professor Vladimir Prelog.
In the 1960s Khorana confirmed Nirenberg’s findings that the way the four different types of nucleotides are arranged on the spiral “staircase” of the DNA molecule determines the chemical composition and function of a new cell. Khorana made another contribution to genetics in 1970, when he and his research team were able to synthesize the first artificial copy of a yeast gene. His later research explored the molecular mechanisms underlying the cell signaling pathways of vision in vertebrates.
“We must be modest except in our aims” (Otto Loewi)